Chapter 1. Introduction

This chapter introduces the Balabit’s Privileged Session Management, Shell Control Box (PSM, formerly called SCB) in a non-technical manner, discussing how and why is it useful, and what additional security it offers to an existing IT infrastructure.

The major benefits of PSM

Balabit’s Privileged Session Management, Shell Control Box (PSM, formerly called SCB) is a part of Balabit's Privileged Access Management solution. Addressing large enterprise needs, Privileged Session Management is a privileged user monitoring solution which provides industry-leading access control, session recording and auditing to prevent privileged account misuse and accelerate forensics investigations.

PSM is a quickly deployable enterprise device, completely independent from clients and servers - integrating seamlessly into existing networks. It captures the activity data necessary for user profiling and enables full user session drill down for forensic investigations.

PSM has full control over the SSH, RDP, Telnet, TN3270, TN5250, Citrix ICA, and VNC connections, giving a framework (with solid boundaries) for the work of the administrators. The most notable features of PSM are the following:

CENTRAL POLICY ENFORCEMENT. 

The PSM acts as a centralized authentication and access-control point in your IT environment which protects against privileged identity theft and malicious insiders. The granular access management helps you to control who can access what and when on your critical IT assets.

PREVENTION OF MALICIOUS ACTIVITIES. 

PSM monitors privileged user sessions in real-time and detects policy violations as they occur. In case of detecting a suspicious user activity (for example entering a destructive command, such as the "rm"), PSM can send you an alert or immediately terminate the connection.

GREATER ACCOUNTABILITY (DETERRANCE). 

PSM audits "who did what", for example on your database- or SAP servers. Aware of this, your employees will do their work with a greater sense of responsibility leading to a reduction in human errors. By having an easily interpreted, tamper-proof record in encrypted, timestamped, and digitally signed audit trails, finger-pointing issues can be eliminated.

FASTER, COST-EFFECTIVE COMPLIANCE AUDITS. 

PSM makes all user activity traceable by recording them in high quality, tamper-proof and easily searchable audit trails. All data is stored in encrypted, timestamped and signed files, preventing any modification or manipulation. The movie-like audit trails ensure that all the necessary information is accessible for ad-hoc analyses or audit reports.

LOWER TROUBLESHOOTING & FORENSICS COSTS. 

When something wrong happens, everybody wants to know the real story. Analyzing thousands of text-based logs can be a nightmare and may require the participation of external experts. The ability to easily reconstruct user sessions allows you to shorten investigation time and avoid unexpected cost.

Application areas

Fastest return to value and extremely low TCO. 

PSM is a turnkey network appliance - its implementation and configuration is fast and simple. Compared to competitors, there is no need to purchase and install any additional software (for example, Windows or MS SQL servers) or hardware to have PSM fully functioning. Full implementation typically takes only 3-5 days! No need for long and costly professional services for implementation and customization. After deployment, PSM operates in the background like a black box of an airplane - there is no need for any extra workload to operate it.

Independent, agentless device. 

Compared to agent-based solutions, there is no need for installing and updating agents on clients or servers, eliminating unnecessary maintenance and potential security issues. As a host independent gateway, PSM can control and monitor access to any type of systems incl. all Windows/UNIX/Linux servers, mainframes, network devices, security devices, web-based applications or thin client environments, such as VMware View, Citrix XenApp or XenDesktop.

Transparent, “router-like” operation. 

As a proxy gateway, PSM can operate as a router in the network – invisible to the user and to the server. As a transparent solution, PSM requires minimal changes to the existing network. Also, since it operates on the network level, users can keep using the client applications they are familiar with, and do not have to change their work processes, unlike jump host solutions.

Granular access control. 

Since PSM has full access to the inspected traffic, security managers can granularly control who can access what and when on the servers. For example, they can selectively permit or deny access to protocol channels: enable terminal sessions in SSH, but disable port-forwarding and file transfers, or enable desktop access for RDP, but disable file sharing. In addition, PSM supports real-time shadowing allowing an authorizer to follow the administrator's session in real-time and terminate his/her connection in case of detecting a policy violation.

Real-time prevention of malicious activities. 

PSM can monitor transferred content in real time and can send alerts or even block connections if a certain pattern is detected in the traffic. Predefined patterns can be a risky command in a text-oriented protocol or a suspicious application in a graphical connection. This command and application level policy can prevent malicious user activities as they happen instead of just recording or reporting them.

Industry-leading session recording and auditing. 

PSM is the leading session auditing solution on the market offering Optical Character Recognition (OCR) capabilities to log ALL data about privileged actions in graphical user interfaces as well as text-based protocols. PSM can support and audit file transfers, as well. All data is recorded into searchable movie-like audit trails, making it easy to find relevant information in forensics or troubleshooting situations. In case of any problems (server misconfiguration, database manipulation, unexpected shutdown), the circumstances of the event are readily available in the audit trails, thus the cause of the incident can be easily identified. Auditors can do free-text searches in the content of text-based and graphical sessions. They can search for EVERY events (for example, mouse clicks, pressing Enter) and texts seen by the user. To protect the sensitive information included in the communication, the two directions of the traffic (client-server and server-client) can be separated and encrypted with different keys, thus sensitive information like passwords are displayed only when necessary.